Prayer Rugs


Prayer Rugs

Prayer rugs are typically small pieces of embroidery used by Islamic worshipers who kneel, bow and prostrate themselves in humility before their God. Prayer rugs are not universally used by Muslims, nor are they specifically required in Islam. What is required is that the area where the prayers are being performed be clean. For many, these have become a traditional way to ensure such cleanliness as well as create a central, isolated space to pray.

Prayer rugs will generally have either a geometric, arabesque, or floral design colored with natural dyes. They can frequently depict such Islamic landmarks as the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem or the Ka'aba in Mecca. The design will most often feature a 'top' and 'bottom', important because the bottom is where the one praying stands and the top points towards the direction of the prayer. When it comes time to pray, the worshipper will lay his carpet on the ground with the top pointing towards Mecca, in Saudi Arabia. Afterwards, the piece can conveniently be rolled or folded and stored easily.

Prayer rugs have captivated collectors since the beginning of modern collecting and have really grown in popularity since toward the end of the nineteenth century. They were also highly appealing to the more affluent middle class when these started furnishing their homes with imported goods in the latter decades of the same century. They are often discussed in a rather valued abstract, decontextualized way among collectors.

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